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Jukka Pelkonen & Markus Vanhala (Omnium Gatherum)

Interview with Jukka Pelkonen & Markus Vanhala from Omnium Gatherum
by Justin Wittenmeier at 14 October 2018, 10:22 AM

On Sept 7th, at the Gramercy Theater in New York, OMNIUM GATHERUM started their North American tour with fellow Fins, AMORPHIS, Sweden’s DARK TRANQUILLITY, and Portugal’s MOONSPELL. One of the last half dozen or so shows left was at the Diamond Hall Pub in Louisville, Kentucky where Metal Temple writer Justin Wittenmeier saw all four bands tear up the stage. Prior to the show, he was lucky enough to sit down with guitarist Markus Vanhala and vocalist Jukka Pelkonen and interview them.

Thanks for the interview.  Always nice to get such big opportunities.

Jukka & Markus: Sure, you are welcome.

So, six or seven dates left on this tour, right?  By the time you get this far on the tour, are you just as excited as you when you first began or are you just ready for it to come to a close?

Jukka:  Well, it depends on the mood of course.  When you are really tired, it should be ending as soon as possible (laughs).  In general, we like this sort of thing so we would like it to continue; we give 100 percent for these shows.

Markus:  These shows have been really great, hasn’t been any bad gigs.  This lineup is awesome, we have been highly looking forward to this tour.

Yeah, this tour is a god tier level tour (laughs), I couldn’t believe all the bands that were announced.  I’m assuming all the bands are friends, known most of each other for years?

Markus: Yeah, we have.  It makes this type of tour easier.

Michael (from Dark Tranquillity) has mentioned before that DT went to school with a lot of the members of other bands.  Is this the same case for some of the Finnish bands?

Jukka:  Not necessarily during the school years so much but as the bands grew up in the scene and we released a few albums each, the opportunities to meet presented themselves.

I’ve always been curious, who decides the slots for the bands on tour? For me, you guys don’t seem like an opening band. Hell, you’re eight albums into your career and you’re just as good as the other guys.

Jukka: Somebody decides that (laughs).  For us, for me personally, I don’t care so much about what order, I care about the music, but just to be able to play is fun and a super thing.

Markus:  And, of course, we are by far the youngest band on this bill.  We had been listening to these bands already when we formed to play.

So it would be safe to say Dark Tranquility may have influenced you, since they were instrumental in forming the melo death scene?

Markus: Yeah but the Finnish scene itself; we were huge fans of Tales from The Thousand Lakes.  And we continue to see bands from Finland on the international circuit and really making it.

Jukka: It is a good thing that music bring so many people together.  Especially now days with the internet, which is one of the good things about it. People can discover bands all over the world and really fast, it is a good thing.

Do go you guys feel like the internet has helped you as a band? I know some artists proclaim the internet has hurt them, complain about stealing music.  Obviously that is understandable, and I’m sure you guys want to get paid for your work but what is your view on that?

Jukka: Yeah of course promotionally it helps a lot, even with bigger bands because the internet is such an influence in people’s every day lives.  I think it would be kind of misleading that it wouldn’t affect anything.  It, of course, it has down sides like with anything but I think it is the main promotional channel these days.

It does seem like fans as a whole have moved away from physical copies, using spotify, for example, to get music as opposed to physically buying it.

Jukka: That, of course, is one of the down sides.

Markus:  But of course, we never really saw that high physical copy selling side of the music industry.  We understand that bands who existed before would see the internet as a bad thing and bands don’t get a ton of money from streaming plays.

The new album, The Burning Cold, is amazing. Congrats on that, I know a lot of critics in addition to Metal Temple have given it great reviews.  Have you seen that positive reaction in your fan base?

Markus: Definitely I think so.

Jukka: There has been a really positive reaction, I haven’t heard anything negative from it.  We are really proud of the album.

Markus:  And haven’t been able to tell of any negative on this tour.  We haven’t been nervous or worried playing after just 30 minutes from the door opening, fans are showing up for the new music, we really see people coming for us.  It hasn’t been like that always (laughs).

Jukka: We love the energy between us and the crowds.  We really love to play live and like to have a lot of fun with it on stage, we like to really rock it.  We can really feel people getting into the mood, creating this atmosphere.  To have a great a set from the beginning, band after band, is one of the positives.

When I listen to “The Burning Cold”, I hear some influence from your previous album “Grey Heavens,”  Was that on purpose?  Did you listen to Grey Heavens and say, “How can we improve upon this, or make it better?”

Markus: Our albums are always like pathways.  They kind of influence each other. If you were to listen to “The Burning Cold,” and then our first album it would sound like a different band.  But if you listened to our albums in order, you can collect the pieces the next album always leads to.

Jukka: We have a passion to push our music forward, to push the genre forward also.

I noticed a lot of prog elements in “The Burning Cold.” It is straight forward but it still sounds fresh.

Markus:  The music came to life pretty easily to us this time. You can tell our influences; we like the older death metal as well as older classic and progressive rock.

Your sort of clean, raspy, vocals you presented on “The Redshift,” hasn’t been used as much on the following albums.

Jukka:  I have to make decisions to do clean vocals here and there or choose to do deep growls but I decided the growls was the way I wanted to do this.  I made a really good decision because it really suits the music that Markus and Joonas (other guitarist) makes for us.

Yeah, with melodic music it must have interesting vocals, not be too cheesy or aggressive.

Markus, you are a very busy man, between both Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum.  How do you compartmentalize these two bands?

Markus:  Now days, in these months I’ll write for one band, getting focused for just one band.  Both bands have their own sound, with Omnium Gatherum being more aggressive with more complicated keyboard parts.

I knew from the moment I saw the artwork, the album was going to be special.  Is there any symbolism to the lyrics and the artwork?

Jukka:   When I joined the band, it was important I write the lyrics but that I also give a lot of space with the artists to make up his own mind, even though I give him ideas as to the artwork direction.

Markus:  For this artwork, we all discussed what direction and ideas we wanted for the cover art.  We listen to a lot of old skull death metal so we came to the conclusion we wanted skulls (laughs), that nostalgic death metal feel like with Death’s Scream Bloody Gore and Sepultura’s Beneath The Remains.  Basically, bring skulls back to metal (laughs).

What are some of your favorite tracks from “The Burning Cold?”

Jukka:  It is really hard to say but I think “Over The Battlfield” has been one of my favorites since the beginning but now I’m leaning towards “Cold.”

Markus:  I’m still really happy with “God’s Go First,” its a new perspective on our music—there is a lot of progressive twists but still catchy, but there isn’t any I don’t like, I’m happy with out it turned out.

What is the song writing process, do you write at home or on the road?

Markus: Never on the road….I’m not capable of getting that state of mind on the road. I need that isolation of being at home.  To be alone in the dark (laughs).

Jukka: The process for years is that Markus sends me some demos and I usually have ideas lyrically through the musical pathways.  He will ask me about titles and lyrics, stuff like that.  It’s ongoing; like throwing a baseball back and forth to each other.  The other guys state their opinions, on ideas and production. Every band member has something to say for sure but the songwriters are mainly us and Joonas.

Jukka, not being the original vocalist, at what point did you feel at home with the band?

Jukka:  I think right from the beginning; Markus had called me to get together for rehearsals. But when I really started to feel like it, was on Redshift.  Stuck Here On Snake’s Way was like a testing ground, so speak (laughs) because I was so involved with my other band at the time.

Marcus:  Redshift, in many ways, was kind of the debut of OG’s real career.  That is when things started to happen with touring.

Over the years, I assume you have seen your tours/success get bigger and bigger? You want to do this as long as you can?

Marcus:  At the moment, things are going too well to quit (laughs) so yes we want to go as long as possible.  It has been a long road but we are steadily getting bigger, always getting better.  Many bands from Finland started out strong but saw themselves fall. We are always growing.

Jukka:  It’s hard but the passion for the music always comes first.  We do it professionally, of course, but the music always comes first.

The metal scene over in Europe seems bigger than here in the States. Do you play to bigger crowds outside North America?

Markus:  After this tour, we are doing a headliner tour where we will play for 75 minutes.  We hope to be able to the same for North America soon.

Jukka: Of course, we do enjoy the crowds over here, they are really amazing.  The fans in North America are really into it, buying vinyl and everything.  So why not tour here as well?

Markus:  The reaction to us on this tour has been amazing so we have been talking about doing a headlining tour here soon, perhaps as early as next year.  The time for that is now, so we will see.



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